A splendid host

Living in the shadow

Circa noontime on a strange December day, a young man of good pedigree sits in front of us. Eloquent and erudite, he speaks knowledgeably of architecture and horticulture as potential future pursuits while a radio microphone is pinned to his lapel and a lens focuses sharp on his countenance. His name is Chris, our host for the day.

Creamy yellowish lamplight reflects off brass fixtures and fittings, burnishes moody, dark oak paneling with a golden hue, creating a warm lantern-lit ambiance in a corner of a vast and otherwise dark room littered but not cluttered with antique treasures from the near and distant past. A grand piano here, a collection of musty books there. Cavalry sabres, scimitars and rapiers glinting behind a glass case. Victoriana and Gothic splendour neatly arrayed around with care and attention to detail. A living mise-en-scene, lived in by the scions of landed gentry. On the walls, on every wall, actually, splendid oil paintings of noble figures look down through generations past; pride and care and stately reserve indicated in the finery of their period regalia. Gowns and uniforms. Military lineage. Beneath them, on the mantlepieces (of which there are many), fading monochrome photographs of this century’s generations. Stained glass heraldry adorns the windows, astride a hand carved balustrade, rendered rich and unique through the craft and flair of a carpenter artist.

The young man, Chris, is a splendid host. The camera light blinks red for record. The patchwork scrapbook of questions is filled with notes and answers. The lilt of youthful exuberance colours his tone on all issues and many subjects.

I ask him what it’s like to live in the shadow of a nuclear power plant.